Career Coach Lisa Silvershein on Managing Career Transitions

For CEP's February Career Corner, I turned to career coach Lisa Silvershein to learn more about managing career transitions effectively.

Lisa is a Certified Behavioral Coach who helps professionals through all phases of their career. Founder of Ark Career Coaching (Basking Ridge, NJ), Lisa has over 20 years of career counseling, human resources and management experience. She is also author of the book, It's Your Turn... Do What You Want to Do!

Here's more of what Lisa had to say about managing career transitions:

Career Coach Lisa Silvershein

First, how do you define "career transition"?

Lisa: Most often people think of a career transition as moving from one career to another, but it can also be transitioning from one company to another or to another position in the same company - like a promotion from "techie" to manager. A career transition is really any change in the role someone does at work or even from school to work. Later on, the transition might be returning to work after having a family or planning a retirement.

What questions should an individual ask him/herself while preparing to make a career transition?

Lisa: You need to know what your strengths are - consider your talents, which are what comes naturally to you - plus your skills, which are what you use to enhance those talents. I recommend to my clients that they read the book Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham.

If you're moving from a technical to a managerial role, think about whether you'd enjoy handling the supervisory as well as the administrative parts of the job. Have a good feel for what you're good at and know your weaknesses so that you can build a team that will balance you out.

How does someone get emotionally ready for a transition?

Lisa: Review why you decided to make the move and why you're qualified so that you can pump yourself up. Also consider the "what if" - what will happen if...? And work through how you'll handle it.

Think about the low-hanging fruit and what will make you shine in your new position and how you'll make your mark. Don't go in like a bull in a china shop - ask questions first and make sure you understand the perspective of the people who are working there - learn from them first!

If it's that you're being laid off - make sure you gather all your old favorable reviews and letters. This helps you be more comfortable with what you bring to the table. It builds your confidence.

What should an individual consider when choosing a new path?

Lisa: Will the new position leverage my strengths? Am I excited about it? Is it a stretch for me? That's where the learning and growth will be for you. Sometimes you pick a path because you don't want to grow - but are you at least motivated and interested in it?

Think about the worst that could happen in your new role. What's the best that could happen and are you willing to take the chance? Think about what you like most and least in your current job, and does the new path have more of what you like and less of what you don't?

Also think about what you do in your free time and can you somehow incorporate that - pull your two interests and skill sets together. If you're an engineer and love museums can you do some engineering work that is related to the arts?

Know what your strengths are, what you like, and be able to communicate this.

You can't wait for it to come to you - you make your own breaks. One of the biggest things you can do is build your network. Use your network to build your own board of directors who can help you in your decision making.

What are some ideas for revamping your skill set - for example, going from a technical to managerial position?

Lisa: Do some informational interviews with successful managers. Are there any courses you can take? Take them! Try to find a mentor and consider hiring a coach to help you develop your managerial skills. The big thing for engineers is developing communication skills. Individuals with technical backgrounds have to learn to talk "managerial" rather than "techie." They also quite often need to learn how to "read" the people who are reporting to them. Different personality types like to be communicated with differently.

What else can a career coach do to help someone transition successfully?

Lisa: A career coach helps you think strategically about your career. He or she can help you look at all of your options and evaluate the best matches. They can also help you hit the ground running, take appropriate risks, and set realistic long and short term goals in the new position.

Keep in mind too that the person you'll be reporting to doesn't always know the great things you're doing. A coach can help you let others know the contributions you're making.

For more career coaching resources, visit the Ark Career Coaching website.

Have your own advice, or questions, about career transition?